“It’s that time of the year when the line, “apnigorunakhashi?” (Are you a goat or a cow?), becomes well-used in everyday conversation. Eid ul-Azha turns the whole country into an abattoir with meat-eating becoming the favourite pastime and the actual religious significance getting lost under the competition of animal buying and slaughtering.
This writer is not devoutly religious but when, in apparently civilised settings, people rather casually hint to the number of animals they had sacrificed in the name of religion, he often wonders if this festival has evolved into an animal-cutting exhibition.
The writer also feels that the answer to the question, whether one is cutting a cow or a goat, reflects on someone’s financial ability.
In an age when flaunting is done with fervid passion, saying “three cows, two goats” boastfully hardly creates any moral scruples!
Once again, this society cares very little for morality now. Oh! They speak of it in volumes, especially at public gatherings but do the opposite in real life.
Bertrand Russell was not wrong when he said: “We have two kinds of moralities, one which we preach but do not practice, and the other which we practice but do not preach.”
Right, the interesting thing is that the man who sacrifices so many animals becomes the talk of his area. If he is the only one with the money, then all glory is showered on him for being such a generous man in killing so many animals.
If there is another person who wants the crown for the man who sacrifices the most and earns the highest blessings then there is a bit of a problem. Good news for the sellers though, because two competing buffoons never bargain, as that would lower their status in front of others.
Therefore, any outrageous amount demanded is accepted.
Problem is this glory which comes with the slaughter is ephemeral like everything in life. One year later, most people forget who became the winner in sacrificing animals the year last.So, the competition begins once more with renewed vigour!
Even better if one party gets hold of a camel!
Camels are seen in Saudi Arabia and, since that country is the land of the Holy Kaba, there must be more “soab” (benediction) if a camel is slaughtered.
Believe me, there is an ingrained belief among many that everything in Saudi Arabia is beyond reproach and, therefore, holy.
Of course, camels are sold here often from the deserts of Rajasthan, though this part is never publicised.
After all, that is not the land of the believers, right?
Sometimes the camel is from some other Middle-East nation, but who cares if it’s old; plus, it’s a reject from the desert good carrying fleet and the meat is inedible.
Bengalis, not used to seeing camels being slaughtered, will come from far-flung areas to see the animal fall under the knife. For some time after Eid, there will be an assortment of tales relating to the camel; some true, most apocryphal.
One day, the camel killing, if it’s the first in the area, will be part of urban or rural legend.
Say for instance the man who took the trouble to buy and slaughter the camel is called Jahangir; in due time, his name will probably transform into Camel Jahangir or Uut Jahangir.
Obviously, if our man Jahangir sacrifices twenty goats he would never want to be referred to as Chagol or Khashi Jahangir. That would be so demeaning! But can’t deny Uut Jahangir has an air of nobility about it.
It surely conjures up images of the oasis, desert, large khanjars (daggers) and Ali Baba. For some, there is also a vague image of a svelte Arabian dancer with her face covered in veil and the navel exposed. Must say, all these elements create a heady picture.
Post slaughter, there will be distribution. Best parts of the meat will be kept while the rest will be given away.
However, in some cases, there is so much meat that getting rid of it becomes a task. In bloodied kurtas and pyjamas, we will rush around the city, handing out meat packets to relatives. Once more, the amount handed out is almost always determined by the status of the relative.
The richer ones get the bigger pieces and the not so well-heeled ones get the usual packets. For the latter, drivers do the meat delivery!
Sorry, no offence, but this is a common ritual. Not saying there aren’t exceptions.
For several days after Eid, meat-based feasts will rule until one day we become fed-up and crave some daalbhat and deshi style mashed potato with chilies. By this time the blood pressure has hit the roof!
Of late, the city corporation has become prompt in cleaning the dustbins replete with animal remains that can’t be eaten and hopefully this year they will be swift in their action.
As for this writer, a goat is the animal to go under the knife. Obviously, people around him are not thrilled. “Kiptashangbadik” (miser journalist) they say, and are possibly thinking, what divine blessing can one expect with such a small sacrifice?